# Tungsten-based life using molten sodium chloride as solvent

My idea is to have organisms that use molten salt as their solvent in the chemistry of the creature. So what I was thinking to have the cells consist of tungsten polyoxometalates but my issue is the fact that I cannot find any information on analogous structures to cell membranes and DNA from tungsten polyoxometalates and how they can have a controlled energy source analogous to ATP while using a solvent that is made of ions as that stops the ion gradient.

So my question is what analogous structures can be formed from tungsten polyoxometalates(and/or what ever else will function in the 1,470 °F) that can form cell membranes, DNA, and ATP with a system of energy transfer and storage system that works with a creature using liquid sodium chloride as a solvent?

• I've replaced the bio-mechanics tag with the chemistry one as it should attract those with the relevant knowledge and interest. Please feel free to revert as you see fit. Mar 21 at 4:08
• @Draft85, I think chemistry is redundant, due to the presence of biochemistry
– L.Dutch
Mar 21 at 4:09
• Maybe, but I'm pretty sure no bio-mechanics were involved in the question, so I'm hedging my bets. I'm also one who followed bio-chem for a long time before following chem, others may have done the reverse. @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica Mar 21 at 4:10
• @Draft85 thank you, also does metabolism not go into the sphere of bio-mechanics? If not I apologize for the misunderstanding. Mar 21 at 4:12
• Note that Tungsten is about as common as Gold (i.e. not very common) and is about 67000 times less common than Carbon and about 6 million times less common than Iron. Salt melts at about 1075 K and the much more common Silicon does not melt until 1687 K, making it a more promising candidate for a basis for life IMO in an environment hot enough for molten salt. Silicon is about 10 times more abundant than Carbon and about as abundant as Iron. Mar 21 at 15:42

You might have some issues to make a properly functioning biological system based on polyoxometalates and sodium chloride as a solvent, for the following reasons:

From a biological standpoint, water has many distinct properties that are critical for the proliferation of life. It carries out this role by allowing organic compounds to react in ways that ultimately allow replication. All known forms of life depend on water. Water is vital both as a solvent in which many of the body's solutes dissolve and as an essential part of many metabolic processes within the body. Metabolism is the sum total of anabolism and catabolism. In anabolism, water is removed from molecules (through energy requiring enzymatic chemical reactions) in order to grow larger molecules (e.g., starches, triglycerides, and proteins for storage of fuels and information). In catabolism, water is used to break bonds in order to generate smaller molecules (e.g., glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids to be used for fuels for energy use or other purposes). Without water, these particular metabolic processes could not exist.

Water is fundamental to photosynthesis and respiration. Photosynthetic cells use the sun's energy to split off water's hydrogen from oxygen. Hydrogen is combined with CO2 (absorbed from air or water) to form glucose and release oxygen. All living cells use such fuels and oxidize the hydrogen and carbon to capture the sun's energy and reform water and CO2 in the process (cellular respiration).

Water is also central to acid-base neutrality and enzyme function. An acid, a hydrogen ion (H+, that is, a proton) donor, can be neutralized by a base, a proton acceptor such as a hydroxide ion (OH−) to form water. Water is considered to be neutral, with a pH (the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration) of 7. Acids have pH values less than 7 while bases have values greater than 7.

While the above can be criticized with the argument that obviously life developed around water would rely on water properties, still lets you get an idea that any other solvent should have similar chemical flexibility.

On the other hand for a story or a world where you want to have polyoxometalates based life, I don't think you need to go into the details of the functioning of the genetic mechanism or biochemical functioning of the cells to use it. Just a superficial statement like "their biochemistry seems to be based on polyoxometalates and they use molten salt as solvent, thus cannot live at temperatures where the salt is solid" should be enough for a good majority of the readers.

• I agree to an extent, the story-writing is the essential element, leave them wondering about the details. Over-feed an audience with technical stuff and they'll lose interest. That being said, it's interesting if something like this might actually be viable. Mar 21 at 4:28

If analogous to our biology, your cell walls are a non-polar lipid layer (in this case could be a tungsten polyoxometalate, $$WO_3$$) that doesn’t mix with salt which is surrounded on the inside and outside by your polar solvent (NaCl) and held together by a web of surfactants (not sure what you’d use) that has a sodium-phobic end and a sodium-loving opposite end that gives the cell membrane a distinct inside and outside.

For the sake of being able to produce “lipids” with biological processes, I might suggest changing the tungsten polyoxometalate $$WO_3$$ to a tungsten chloride $$WCl_6$$, so that you can pull the chlorine in from your salt. The different oxidation states of tungsten allow for some interesting shapes (look at tungsten iii chloride W6Cl18 or tungsten I chloride W6Cl12)

For DNA then, if it’s similar to our microbiology build-up, you are looking at tungsten chloride and sodium foundations for your bases, decorated with some other chemical with the same oxidation state as nitrogen (-3). These would fit on a “sugar” backbone of tungsten, sodium, and chlorine; and be held together with phosphate analogues that are your sodium-tungsten-chloride “sugar” and another new element, probably with the same oxidation state as phosphorus (-3).